Select Creative Writing Courses
Walk, Think, Create
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. –Friedrich Nietzsche
That’s the best thing about walking, the journey itself. –Edward Abbey
Walking, the most common form of human movement, is often equated with intellect, thought, and creativity. In this capstone course, students will explore walking’s literary manifestations and theoretical anchors as well as use walking as the basis for their own creative activity and intellectual inquiry. Walking has long been popular for creative and intellectual stimulation. In 18th and 19th-century England, leisurely walks became a cult-like pursuit. Walking developed into an established religion explained by the Romantic idea of “getting back to nature” that evolved in response to industrialization. Later, in France, Charles Baudelaire established the notion of the flaneur or urban walker. In the U.S., Thoreau codified the experience of walking as essential to artistic, intellectual and creative work. And walking became associated with all manner of activity: street walkers, political protest, pilgrimage, and madness and homelessness. In this course, we’ll study walking from the 18th century to the present day. Along the way, we’ll consider famous walkers, both rural and urban. We’ll investigate walking’s aesthetic appeal, looking at art works made by walking.
Graduate Seminar: Lifewriting
Lifewriting often brings to mind autobiographies, biographies, and oral history, but in this course we will challenge that idea at every turn. So, while Michel de Montaigne, Thomas DeQuincey, and Virginia Woolf will serve as touchstones, we also look at the lives of places and things in texts like Terry Tempest Williams’s Refuge and Steven Connor’s Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things. We consider l’autofiction, a literary form that combines entirely real content and entirely fictional form, where authors and artists insert themselves into their own fictions in search of a self. Any course on lifewriting must address the roles of memory and invention, but we also come at the idea of memory through stories of haunting, such as W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz and an audio recording of a Joseph Cornell seance. We take a close look at intellectual autobiographies and ask why we’re so interested in writer’s lives and the curious things that accrue to those lives.
This course immerses students it the most fluid genre in creative writing: creative nonfiction. Students will examine a variety of forms including the braided essay, the segmented essay, flash nonfiction, the memoir, the narrative essay, the research essay, the profile, and dozens of examples of experimental nonfiction. Students will read works from Michel Montaigne, who introduced the essay form in the late 1500s, to the many present day practitioners of the form, analyzing the works for craft and technique, and then they will experiment by responding in class and out of class prompts. Students will participate in writer’s workshops and write several creative letters during the semester commenting on their own progress as a writer and reflecting on their writing and revising goals. By the end of the semester, they will hand in a portfolio of revised work along with a final letter that describes their revision process and their vision for themselves as a writer.
Graduate Seminar: The Composed Life
This is an intensive writing course designed to give you skills that will contribute to your success in the scholarly world beyond graduate school. Using a hands-on methodology, the course will engage every stage of the writing process, from concept to draft, revision, polish and submission for both grant/fellowship proposals and scholarly articles. In the first half, we will cover the grant/fellowship writing process in its entirety, including how to design a fundable project and how to match your interests to funding agencies. Your assignment will be to conceptualize a project, draft a proposal and bibliography, solicit letters of recommendation, draw up a budget and write a budget narrative. In the second half, we will navigate the minefield of professional journal publication, addressing questions such as: what does “publishable” mean? What are the differences between seminar papers, conference papers, dissertation chapters, and articles? Your assignment will be to turn a seminar paper you have written for a previous course into a publishable piece. You will learn how to choose the right journal for your work, signpost your article in ways that signal you are entering a specific scholarly conversation, evaluate the “originality” of your contribution, and ensure your article answers the questions all good writing answers: what’s at stake and why should readers care? In addition, you will learn the importance of communicating with program directors (in the case of grants and fellowships) and editors (in the case of journals), how to read and respond to readers’ reports, and what to do next, after your proposal or article is either accepted or rejected. Finally, you will get some practice turning your scholarly work into creative pieces marketable for a larger reading audience.
Creative Writing in the Genres
In this introductory course, student explore three major literary genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from a writer’s point of view. They develop their voice, style, and overall craft by studying an array of contemporary writers and by writing your own creative pieces. Students also learn the value of journal keeping. The point of a notebook, said writer John Gregory Dunne, is to jumpstart the mind. This journal is a place to record writing prompts given both in class and as homework, and also a place to jot down ideas and scenes that occur to you whenever the mood strikes. Students will discuss an array of literary works, listen to craft talks, respond to writing prompts, and participate in small group writer’s workshops. Students write several creative letters during the semester commenting on their own progress as a writer and reflecting on a revising goals. By the end of the semester, they will hand in a portfolio of revised work along with a final letter that describes their revision process and vision as a writer.